Ella Burton-Taylor

Native Title
Winter 2016

I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the Aurora Internship Program because of my interest in native title and Indigenous affairs. During my undergraduate degree I learnt a lot about native title and Indigenous politics, and since beginning my law degree I realised that I wanted to gain practical experience in the native title sector. I was really happy to be placed at the Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements (ATNS) Project in Melbourne.


The ATNS Project is an Australian Research Council Linkage project which maintains a comprehensive database of past agreements between Indigenous Australians, mining companies, governments and other parties. Each agreement is summarised in plain English, and researched in-depth so that the summaries include as much information on the agreement as possible. Many well-known academics work on the database. The purpose of the database is to identify best practices in agreement-making by identifying the broad-ranging characteristics, conditions and forms of agreements. The background information which is also included in each summary means that the database is a rich resource of information. The database encourages transparency and accountability in the agreement-making process which overall lacks public disclosure.


I was placed at ATNS for 4 weeks, where I predominately worked on updating the ATNS database with the most recent Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs). In summarising ILUAs, I was able to really develop my ability to translate complex legal language into plain English. This has been such a valuable skill which I will need for the rest of my legal career, and I underestimated the importance of it until I began working with ATNS. Making the summaries also enabled me to became familiar with the structure and content of ILUAs. As the other aspect of completing the summaries was research-based, I was also able to develop my research skills. I would search newspapers, media releases and government websites for any additional information on the agreements which were not included in the often skeletal outline of the actual agreements.


Other tasks I completed during my ATNS internship included assisting other academics in the office with their research, which involved summarising legislation. This was of particular value to my skillset, as choosing what is relevant and what is not relevant in completing a summary can be difficult at first. Reading legislation can also be a bit of a daunting task. I also found that initially, each summary took me a long time to complete. By the end of my internship I found that I was able to complete summaries within a quicker time period.


The work environment at ATNS was by far the best aspect of the internship. The researchers create a warm, relaxed and friendly atmosphere. They are supportive and are always happy to chat about what they are up to. Working with the ATNS Project was a great introduction to the native title sector, and I would recommend applying for an Aurora internship to any legal or social sciences student or graduate interested in native title, Indigenous affairs and/or social justice more broadly. 

The Aurora Internship Program offers internships in both the winter and the summer university breaks for between 4-6 weeks. If you would like to learn more about the the Program, check out their website: http://www.auroraproject.com.au/aurorainternshipprogram.  Applications for the summer 2016/17 round of internships are open now through 26 August.